At Opioid Conference, Former Congressman Kennedy Says Stigma Persists
Open about his own battles with substance abuse Patrick Kennedy, a former member of Congress from Rhode Island, said this nation is hung up on the stigma associated with addiction.
In a rousing speech to a packed room at a conference on opioid addiction and recovery, Kennedy, six years sober himself, said that though much progress has been made to understand that addiction is an issue of the brain and not of morals or character, the stigma and shame persist.
said Kennedy, brother of Connecticut state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy, the keynote speaker of the conference attended by health care professionals, community providers and addiction specialists, plans to push for that declaration as one of five members of President Donald Trump‘s newly appointed Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
Speaking to his recent appointment, Kennedy said:
Typically, he said, addiction is treated episodically, not chronically like other illnesses.
Kennedy said declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency could help boost education on medication-assisted treatment — an intervention that’s growing in popularity. The conference was funded in part by a federal grant for medication-assisted treatment education, officials said.
Medication-assisted treatment uses prescription drugs including buprenorphine and methadone paired with behavioral therapy to help people quit using heroin and other opiates, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Kennedy said learning about medication-assisted treatment
All told, 65 prescribers were trained during the conference, a Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services spokeswoman said.
Sharing a similar urgent message, state Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Democrat from Guilford, said more needs to be done to address the opioid epidemic on a local and national level.
The state’s chief medical examiner recently said that of the 917 fatal overdoses last year in Connecticut, 93 percent involved opioids.
Looking at the issue financially, Scanlon said the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is facing cuts in the tenuous state budget, and federal health care legislation threatens cuts to Medicaid, which a large proportion of those in treatment rely on for coverage.
Scanlon said, adding work is being done to address it.